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Kingdoms Of Amalur Gets Online Pass (And Doesn’t Have Multiplayer)

Kingdoms Of Amalur Gets Online Pass (And Doesn’t Have Multiplayer)

So, this is a little bit more interesting than your average oh-no-not-another-online-pass story.

First of all, the news that’s alluded to in the title – Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning will be getting an online pass, even though it has no online multiplayer. Seven missions will be sealed away inside Reckoning and they can only be accessed with an online pass, which is available for free with a new copy or at an extra cost from PSN if you picked the game up second-hand.

That’s not a surprise anymore. This is the brave new world that Warner Bros. pushed through with Batman: Arkham City. It was the first game to have an online pass for single player content and being the first, Warner Bros. and Rocksteady had to deal with the anger, the ire and the fury of those on the internet who realised that online passes were a Bad Thing and a new precedent had been set. In comparison, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning hasn’t even come close to provoking the same level of anger, with the next game to do the online-pass-for-single-player trick likely to register even less anger and so on, until it becomes a quietly accepted practice.

From the publisher’s point of view, their greatest success this gen won’t just be the implementation of online passes but the fact that somehow, they’ve encouraged people to defend them. Only in the videogames industry will you find such lunacy taking place.

(Also – can we all now accept that the ‘maintaining the cost of servers’ excuse used in the early days of the online pass was little more than just that, an excuse to force this practice on gamers in the first place?)

Here Comes A New Challenger

Now, we promised this story would be a little different to the usual online pass rant and here’s the reason why. Curt Schilling, the boss at developer 38 Studios, has actually broken PR protocol and come forth to defend Reckoning’s online pass. We’ve copied and pasted the relevant part of his post below:

DAY 1 DLC, to be extremely and VIVIDLY clear, is FREE, 100% totally FREE, to anyone that buys a new copy of Reckoning, ANYONE. If you don’t buy new games you buy them used, and in that case you will have to pay for the Day 1 free DLC content the new copy buyers got for free. It’s clear the intent right? To promote early adopters and MUCH MORE IMPORTANT TO ME, REWARD fans and gamers who commit to us with their time and money when it benefits the company.

Every single person on the planet could wait and not buy Reckoning, the game would hit the bargain bin at some point and you could get it cheaper. 38 Studios would likely go away. That’s just how business works. We MUST make a profit to become what we want to become. THE ONLY way we do that is to make games you CANNOT WAIT TO BUY! If we do that, and you do that, we want to reward you with some cool free stuff as a thank you.

So it’s clear what he’s saying – if you don’t buy new, Studio 38 doesn’t make money, Studio 38 goes under. That’s why the online pass, which is referred to as ‘day one DLC’ above but whatever, has to exist. First of all, credit to Curt Schilling for coming forward and stating his case on Kingdom of Amalur’s forums, of all places, when he could have just as easily kept quiet. We know that developers are at the mercy of their publishers and have to defend the decisions their publishers make, whether they agree with them or not. David Jaffe recently said that he didn’t want an online pass for Twisted Metal but that it was Sony’s decision to make, not his. But even so, this line stands out in particular:

We MUST make a profit to become what we want to become. THE ONLY way we do that is to make games you CANNOT WAIT TO BUY!

Making a game we cannot wait to buy is the intent of every developer, you would hope. But making a game you cannot wait to buy is entirely different to creating an online pass for a game so you’re forced to buy. Good games sell. Batman: Arkham City, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception and Saints Row: The Third all used online passes but they would have sold by the truckload in any case, as their quality and marketing dollars ensured plenty of day one sales. They didn’t need online passes but hey, it’s 2012, it’s the year of the online pass, deal with it.

It’s those games on the next rung on the quality ladder that show the inadequacy of online passes. What do online passes really do for them? It’s easy to play the part of New Games Snob and dismiss second-hand sales as the cancer killing the industry but what did online passes do for Homefront? Ask Kaos Studios, shut down by THQ after Homefront trotted out to middling review scores, middling sales and a stunted multiplayer mode with online passes preventing most from seeing the best part of the game.

The games industry is in an awkward place right now. Music has shifted over to a digital model and has now reached the point where digital media is outselling physical media. You can see films heading in the same direction – as the likes of Netflix, Lovefilm, iTunes and film streaming becomes common place, it’ll eventually eat into physical sales of DVDs and Blu-Rays. The big appeal of digital media, as far as publishers are concerned, is that it negates second-hand purchases but games aren’t even close to music or films with digital distribution yet. Steam and OnLive are probably the biggest clues as to what lies ahead in gaming’s future.

But right here, right now, we’re caught in the crossroads where digital distribution hasn’t taken off yet but publishers have found a way to use the digital model to force through its own agenda instead – namely, DLC to cut off second-hand sales.

Curt Schilling is right. Developers have to make games we cannot wait to buy. That is healthy for the industry. Relying on the crutch of online passes to force through day one sales in lieu of quality is not. One day, the first thing we’ll do when we open a game is pick up all the DLC vouchers that tumble out of the box and redeem them one by one, hoping that there isn’t a problem (hi Catwoman!), knowing what used to be unlockable secrets are now cash cows (UMvC3 says hello!) and immersion breaking DLC (thanks Rage!).
This is the future of gaming. Enjoy!

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  • Adam

    You know you’ve opened yourself up to a barrage of bullshit from the blinkered?

    That was fun to say.

  • Ryan King

    Yeah. But that’s part of the fun.

    I think.

  • Hutton121

    I buy all my games from new but still get pissed off when I see online passes and codes etc.

    Games developers will moan that they get nothing from the re-sale of a 2nd hand game while someone else is making a profit out of their hard work, but as I have paid the full RRP for their product I should be able to do what the feck I like with it, after the point of sale I don’t give a damn how long the game was in development, its mine, I chose to buy it on the back of their hard work and skill but that doesn’t mean you get to milk it untill the day it breaks!
    I don’t get Samsung telling me I have to register my TV to get BBC and if i sell it i do so without that channel from that day on.

    I loved Batman AC but if I trade that game the person who buys it has to buy Catwomen! really! that is just bullshit, she is a vital part of the game. DLC in general I have no issue with but holding back on what should be available to everyone is just robbery.
    Online passes mean that once I have played a game on my ps3 online my kids can’t on theirs!
    Do they expect me to buy 2 bloody copies!!!

    It needs to stop… but don’t hold your breath.

  • Joey

    That man loves to CAPITALISE his words.
    If only we could take a page out of his book we could convince the world to believe whatever bollocks we want.
    Paying rent to the landlord, ‘Give ME all YOUR money!’
    Pulling in a pub, ‘Not only will you have SEX with ME but YOU will PAY for the TAXI to your’s and MAKE me BREAKFAST in the MORNING and NEVER call me AGAIN.’
    We would all have fantastic hassle-free lives with this FOOLPROOF technique.

  • Conor

    Because of this crap I definitely wont be purchasing this game new if at all..I hope this games fails badly..it would serve EA right, there is no other company that I hold such contempt and hatred for than EA.

  • shaun

    So in not so many words they are saying they have to include online passes in order for them to grow as a buissness and make games we love?

    funny that as i have been playing games as long back as i can remember and im 26 and i LOVE alot games from back in the day, which were made without the knowledge of money comming in down the line and turned out just fine.
    also what did devolopers do before the online pass was invented by a publisher with £ symbols in his eyes? BEG?

    “Every single person on the planet could wait and not buy Reckoning, the game would hit the bargain bin at some point and you could get it cheaper. 38 Studios would likely go away.”
    Now thats how buisness works and its how the computer games industry has worked for years, you make a good game you thrive you make a weak game and you wither and die or push through to another release if your lucky, there are plenty of devolopers that would laugh in Curt Schillings face for saying his company needs the profits from ‘day one DLC’ in order to make great games.

    we had some great games from devolopers in the past without the online pass its simply another excuse and not even a good one.

  • shaun

    The “cool free stuff” used to be unlocked upon completeing a game, now you charge for it, thanks for that.

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  • Josh Williams

    I know this is totally old but I wanted to add that it is more expensive to make A+ games than it was. The developers are not pocketing the money the make with these annoying gimmicks, they are using it to survive. In the care of KoA, the company went under anyway! They cannot afford to develop A+ titles without nickel-and-dime-ing in these annoying ways. The only other option is to sell the game for $70 or $80 instead of $60. Nobody wants that!